Three Articles About Building a Creative Career

Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about this week:

Afford Anything: Give Me Money! How to Find Freelance Work

Trying to build a business when your financial footing is shaky is like trying to hang beautiful wallpaper in a house with a rotting foundation.

First you need to pour a solid foundation. Then you can take on the higher-level, long-term projects.

Step 1: If you’re not earning enough to pay the bills, use the Pepsi Method. Grab as many projects as you can, even though they don’t pay you what you’re worth.

Step 2: Do this until you’re earning enough to meet your minimum monthly bills.

Step 3: Switch to the Versace Method for all your additional work.

Step 4: With each Versace-level project you start, fire at least one Pepsi-level client.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Afford Anything blog? ❤️❤️❤️

Whatever: The Limits of My Knowledge, Professionally (and Otherwise)

It’s fine for creative people to go through stages in their career, where the knowledge useful to an earlier stage falls away and knowledge useful to their current stage takes its place. Time happens, whether we prefer it to or not. Experience likewise happens. My experience is valid, and the information I have can still be useful, but all of it exists in the context of this is who I am and where I am now in my professional life. Additionally, it should be viewed in the context of survivorship bias — which is to say, I have made it to a particular place in my career, and while I can offer you information based on my experience to tell you how I got here, it might be more useful to examine the careers of people who haven’t landed where I have, despite having similar starting points and early career arcs.

John Scalzi explains the stages writers go through as they build their careers, and why he might no longer be able to give entry-level career advice.

Kameron Hurley: Why Do So Many Artists Suck at Business? Because Businesses Like It That Way

Back before I’d published any books, but after I’d gone to Clarion, I’d heard about a meet up for mid-career writers that new writers weren’t invited to. I felt that was horseshit. Surely I, as a newer writer, would need to know mid-career things?

But now I get it. Most writers three books, eight books, twenty books in, have far different concerns and priorities and most of all, experience, than writers who haven’t been through the grinder. Newer writers want to talk craft. Pros are talking about their first or third career reboot, shitty sales, and how to get out of noncompete clauses and shitty contract language.

This piece is about the business of writing, but it’s also about going through various career stages and what you prioritize during each stage. (KIND OF LIKE THE OTHER TWO PIECES I PICKED FOR TODAY, DO WE SEE A THEME HERE?)

It also makes me think of Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, because it’s been 44 days since I last referenced The Magicians on this blog and that is at least 30 days too long.

Specifically, the part where hedge witches get star tattoos to represent the level of magic they have accomplished, so they’ll know instantly whether another witch is at their level.

Because when you’re an early-career writer/freelancer/hedge witch, it’s easy to find peers. As your career continues to grow, the number of people at your level starts to shrink.

Which — I mean, you can always use what you know to help other people get to your level, and those types of interactions can be both emotionally and socially fulfilling for both parties.

But sometimes you just want to go to a bar with people who have the same number of stars as you, and those kinds of spaces aren’t always easy to find.

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